A big part of the analytics journey for many organizations is the desire to move towards a culture where data analysis & metrics are at the heart of the business, rather than being an afterthought.
Those in the beginning stages of this journey, tend to fall into one of the following buckets, broadly categorized by these sound-bites:
Companies who embrace BI/Analytics operate differently in ways that are subtle, but very meaningful:
Superb organizations make the transition to recognize that everyone is a Data Person to some degree, and the citizen data-scientist becomes the norm rather than the exception.
Getting from one end of the spectrum to the other ain't easy... which is why this week's Thursday Thought is all about sharing experiences, knowledge and resources with those seeking inspiration.
How would you recommend someone get started on this journey? What steps have you, or your company, taken to drive this change?
Please feel free to share your own experience, tips, articles you’ve read, tools, or any other resources you've found helpful. All thoughts are welcomed and encouraged.
A big shout out to @SeanAdams for his assistance in crafting this week’s post :)
Manager, Global Community Engagement
Thank you for posting this question @LeahK!
For us, some of the things we've been looking around the culture related to BI are below - however we're actively looking for ideas so I'd really love to hear other people's ideas & thoughts on this:
- Eliminate supply-led BI. BI that's created by the BI professionals is generally less used (in our experience) than BI that's created for a requested need
- Engage the managers on their need: Working directly with the managers to say "what business questions do you have, that you can't answer today". The intention here is that by asking the managers first, we can begin the culture change by focussing on the need of the people who will be likely to sponsor this work deeper in the organisation.
- Understand the Why: We've also started asking deeper questions about any dashboard or reporting requests. Instead of just providing a dashboard of volume, for example, we're taking one further step and asking "what action or decision are you hoping to make from this data". We're doing this for 3 reasons:
- Initially we built many dashboard because people wanted "visibility" but these were not driving any actions so eventually they fell out of use
- we also found that the way we present data changes based on how people want to use it. For example, if they are looking to augment staff to meet demand that would be one presentation; but if they are just looking at which clients are doing more business to focus on those clients, that's a different presentation
- Hunting Packs: We sometimes do a hunting pack, where one or two people go and sit with the line people to see what they actually do during the day, to identify (or hunt) opportunities which will help people immediately.
The other area we're focussed on is changing the discussion around BI:
- in some areas people see BI as something you do because someone makes you do it;
- in some areas people are asking "when will we be finished with BI - what's the full scope and end-date" like a project. In our mind, BI is a continuous investment in a modern organisation - rather than being a project, this is a permanent capability. We also see
- and in some areas people see BI as a pretty looking Tableau dashboard or a report that is built and tested and never changed - this is certainly part of it, but I see this as the smallest part, with the more interesting and larger piece being the exploration and continuous testing of our understanding of our world through interrogation of the data (a very dynamic and curious role)
- we also still have a lot of confusion between automation and BI - Alteryx allows you to do both, but in many respects they are very different.
Really very curious to see what other folk are thinking about; or any articles you can recommend on driving a change in culture from a procedural to a data-centric culture; driving an understanding of how managers and line folk can & should embrace BI; or any hint/tips that have worked for you.
Have a great Friday all,
I think there is one word that @LeahK mentioned in this post that makes all the difference: curiosity.
I work for a commercial construction company. We aren't in retail, so there aren't millions of transactions and thousands of customers... but there is still data, if you're curious enough to look for the ways things tie together, and that's what makes the difference. There are so many pressures out there in today's work space, and I'd venture to say that the construction industry magnifies most of those. But that just reiterates the fact that people need the right information at the right time, and in order to have a competitive edge, it doesn't matter if you're selling high-rise buildings or high top sneakers - you need to have that information sooner than your competition, and in a format you can act upon quickly.
In my time as a business analyst, and perhaps even more so since I discovered Alteryx, it has become increasingly apparent to me that curiosity is the key competitive advantage. It's about caring more about why your revenue numbers have risen or fallen that what those revenue numbers might be. It's about fostering that culture of listening to your gut feeling, of never being willing to accept the results at face value, of questioning everything. It's about not caring that you don't already know how to find the answer or calculate the metric... Find it anyway! Calculate it anyway! But how do you bring that culture of curiosity to someone who is content just following the steps, completing the checklist, doing things the same way they've always been done?
Whether I'm explaining a complicated Alteryx workflow or teaching someone how to use a simple formula in Excel, I've learned that by encouraging people to ask "why" and to understand "how", it creates the right kinds of habits. It's the "teach a man to fish" philosophy - part of creating a stellar analytics culture is teaching people how to be analytical! And since that doesn't always come naturally to everyone on your team, it's about giving them a reason to be curious. Be excited about what you do, about what you're working on. Enthusiasm is contagious. Take someone's 2-hour process and turn it into a 2-minute repeatable workflow... and then show them how you did it! Don't accept complacency and don't hand out BI solutions and time-saving workflows like they are dispensable Halloween candy... do like @SeanAdams suggests and bring in those managers and those executives and those business leaders who need this information, and get them engaged in the process. By participating in the process from start to finish rather than just being handed BI solutions that may or may not actually address their business objectives, they can take ownership of the results and start to be able to ask their own questions. Then the cycle can naturally begin again, can be sustained rather than forced.
So really, it isn't technical or even very earth-shattering... but curiosity, to me, is the key!
This analytics journey needs to be embraced by the organization and requires leadership to help guide and direct the team. I am a fan of Our Iceberg is Melting, a fable about succeeding in a changing world (note: I'm also a fan of The Godfather, but for different reasons). Kotter presents the following required steps for success:
Steps one through four are strategic actions setting the stage for execution within the organization. When you get to #5, you're seeing Alteryx and Self-Service analytics being delivered into the lines of business. #6 is clearly a play for The Thrill of Solving and execution enabled through Alteryx. As you raise the bar on analytics, it is necessary to not only create new metrics but to also take action based upon the new information.
Steps seven and eight are where the sprint ends and the marathon begins. "Don't take your foot off of the gas." While it is important to celebrate your wins, you need to expand your wins by involving more folks in the community and creating more wins in the future. In terms of Alteryx, you'll take on bigger challenges and get more people trained and involved in the analytics journey.
Read the book and then consider which character you identify with (Fred, Alice, Louis, Buddy, The Professor, Sally Ann or NoNo). Even before reading the story, I hope that you can immediately cross NoNo off of your list of possible personalities that you see in yourself. Leading bold change requires a team. There will be many folks involved in the journey and thanks to Alteryx it will be more successful and have the support of the community to back you up.
We are so far behind most of you all that it's not funny. Our team has, on numerous occasions received, in response to a request for data, a screenshot of a spreadsheet.
Since we are not located in a central Data Analyst type area we are slowly pushing reports and workflows out into our organization. We are championing the self-service approach by utilizing Alteryx Server to allow people to run their own workflows. This has led to a number of people coming back to us with adjustments or new questions that they would like to see answered. People are slowly becoming aware that analytics are helpful to quickly understanding or working through their problems. The self-service tools are also teaching a little bit of data management to our users as they encounter problems using it that stem from terrible data management practices. They are learning how to properly format their data for entry into the tools.
CUIRIOSITY is definitely the key.
We are not exclusively a data driven organization though. But, for the work that is heavily data driven, we are working to get more of our users into Alteryx for their data needs.
Recently, a team of us interviewed a number of Alteryx users, with varying levels of usage and knowledge. We found that:
-They all love the speed of the program, and the amount of data it can handle
-They all love how easy it is to learn the program.
We need to overcome 2 major hurdles:
1. People aren't aware of the program and its capabilities. So, we will be inserting more focused training to new hires (I've developed a 2-hour introduction to analytics course that covers basic data prep & blending in Alteryx, and visualization in Tableau (or PowerBI))
2. People higher up the food chain aren't aware of the program, and they feel that since they did it in Excel, so should everyone else. This is where we need to focus on awareness, and set up demonstrations of what the program can do. We will also work with our professional development leaders to raise their awareness of Alteryx and what it can do so that they can push their consultants in the right direction when it comes to analytics.
The good news is, since we introduced Alteryx 2 years ago, more and more new hire groups are learning the basics of the program and having it in their toolkit. We've even convinced a few clients to adopt Alteryx as their analysis tool.
One very powerful story I tell now happened about a month ago. I was onsite at one of our clients, teaching a 2 day Alteryx workshop. At the end of the second day, one of the participants approached me about a workflow he had just built. The process they were using, a combination of Access and SQL, tool 2.5 hours to run. He developed the same process in Alteryx in about 5 minutes, and it took a whopping 40 SECONDS. Those are the kinds of stories that help people make the jump.
Another has to do with a team that was working on a bidsheet analysis. There were about 15 Excel files, each with about 12 tabs. Each tab from each of those 15 files had to be unioned together. This would have taken hours to cut and paste in Excel and/or load into PowerPivot. In Alteryx, we built a set of workflows that not only unioned the data, but analyzed it. Running all of these workflows, including output to a .tde and writing back to an Excel file, took about 5 minutes total. When new data came in, the workflows were simply run again. No adjustments needed. Compressed weeks of work into under an hour.
These testimonials are powerful tools to build up curiosity about the program. Who wouldn't want a process that runs so quickly and easily?